Jeffrey’s Cinema #24

Jeffrey Babcock is back!

This time with:


Directed by Chis Marker
100 minutes
In English


‘This is one of the cinematic masterpieces of the last century. Totally unique in the realm of movies – is Sans Soleil a straight documentary? An essay-film? A fictionalized diary? A science fiction movie? Cultural anthropology? A documentary of the imagination?


I have chosen this movie to go along with the exhibition of Sema Bekirovic, because both works have an invisible inquisitor, both question how time and space work in a poetic rather than a logical manner, both are trying to piece together history through memory, and both tangentially overlap into sci-fi imagination and exploration.


Sans Soleil is an extremely rich experience that transports the viewer into the thoughts of someone traveling around the world to produce a study on ‘the dreams of the human race. The film is geographically and culturally drifting between three primary locations: Guinea-Bissau, Iceland and Japan. Its images are pierced by the ruminations and insights of an unknown narrator who comments on what she sees. The narrator is both intimate and a stranger at the same time, and the view she creates of the modern world is almost apocalyptic. In fact, at times this poetic documentary almost feels like an alien’s view of our civilization.


Made with almost no money (shot on a silent movie camera, with sound recorded separately on a cassette tape), this is a primary example of how pure creativity can be the main force of cinema. Director Chris Marker was an obscure figure; he kept himself out of the public spotlight, on the margins of society – where he created radical, visionary films. His work still remains fresh, since so few others have come close to his artistry and originality. With Sans Soleil, Chris Marker self-handedly created an entirely new form and genre of cinema: the essay film. You might know him from a short sci-fi film called La jetée, made up entirely of black and white still photos, and which was later re-made by Terry Gilliam into a feature called 12 Monkeys.


Here is the reaction of one viewer, which I feel is true: “It is a complex, fascinating and wholly unique experience and proof that Marker was a visionary ahead of his time. Hopefully, one day filmmakers will realize this and attempt something new – not to copy Marker but to copy his example. For anyone sick of Hollywood and all its old bores, who have a desire to see and be inspired by a film of limitless possibilities – one of the greatest films ever made – you should see Sans soleil.”


Jeffrey Babcock